This is the second annual Doyle Research predictions article for FierceTelecom. Here are six predictions that will shape the networking industry for 2021 across security, remote access, routing, SD-WAN and cloud sectors.

During 2020, network and telecom innovation continued to drive software and cloud-based intelligence. Many markets (such as SD-WAN) and technology rollouts were slowed by the impact of the pandemic.

SASE architectures difficult to implement

The Secure Access Service Edge was the buzzword of 2020, but very few organizations have implemented SASE solutions.  Implementing a secure network remains more import than ever – especially considering the news of massive breaches at many large enterprises and government agencies.

Sponsored by Salesforce

Learn how Salesforce can help telecom providers reimagine the retail experience

Hear Salesforce experts discuss how telecom providers can create engaging and personalized customer interactions by enabling seamless shopping experiences across every touchpoint by offering convenient self-service and contactless engagement

RELATED: Doyle—How does SASE impact managed service offerings?

Network security remains in overlay mode—with IT/security teams layering on more security products, software and services to their existing infrastructure. A true SASE implementation will require a complete rearchitecting of network and security solutions across remote access, branch, data center, and cloud.  This will require network and security teams to actually talk to each other and agree on longer-term solutions and suppliers. Which means we will continue to talk a lot about SASE (especially the suppliers), but that we will see only limited implementation in 2021.

ZTNA to replace VPNs

Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) was also very popular in 2020 with dozens of vendors offering up a variety of quite different solutions.  ZTNA abstracts the network location and employs identity-based authentication to establish trust. It leverages information such as location, device, time of day, and application to provide appropriate access to data. ZTNA will continue to gain steam in 2021 as enterprises start to implement it for remote access, branch and IoT use cases. ZTNA can best be thought of as a technology—a way of providing security—as opposed to a specific product.  It will (over time) replace many VPN solutions and become integrated with overall SASE architectures.  

Vendors to watch: Almost all networking and security suppliers are touting their ZTNA solutions.

Remote access becomes mainstream

Before 2020, remote access (e.g., VPNs) had been relegated to the margins of network and security infrastructure with only limited innovation and new investment. Now with “everyone” continuing to work remotely, remote access technologies are hot with a number of start-ups and existing providers working to rapidly provide innovative solutions.

Doyle Research predicts that working remotely will be permanent at least part of the week for tens of millions of knowledge workers. Remote access will need to migrate from a point solution to one that is well integrated with an organization’s overall SASE architecture.  This transition will take a number of years.

Smaller vendors to watch: Ananda, Infiot, Netmotion, and Elisity.

Larger vendors to watch: Cisco, HPE Aruba, Cradlepoint, Fortinet, Citrix, and Juniper Networks.

Growth for software routing

During 2020, leading carriers, such as AT&T, continued to promote the concept of software routing with routing code independent of the underlying hardware. For 2021, software routing will mature into widespread use for a variety of use cases including network edge, core and use in the RAN.

Hardware platforms for the routing code will remain diverse including standard x86 servers, servers with smart NICs and performance optimized Broadcom servers, among others.

Vendors to watch: Volta, IP Infusion, DriveNets.

SD-WAN growth returns

The events of 2020 impacted a number of branch centric organizations including retail, restaurants, hotels, travel and a number of other industries. Some of these organizations slowed or re-evaluated their SD-WAN plans due to economics and uncertainty as to the future of some of their branch locations.  This caused SD-WAN growth to slow in 2020—especially if one subtracts SD-WAN revenues from the home use case.

During 2021, SD-WAN growth will start to accelerate in the second half as many organizations see a “return to normal” and continue to invest in the performance and security benefits of SD-WAN. Some organizations will expand their deployments of SD-Branch including SD-WAN technologies as well.

Vendors to watch: VMware, Cisco, Fortinet, HPE Aruba (including Silver Peak), Citrix, Palo Alto Networks, Juniper Networks, Versa Networks, and QOS Networks.

Telecom: Cloud partnerships slow to click

In 2020, there was much news about various partnerships between leading telecom operators and the largest cloud providers such as AWS, Microsoft and Google.  Microsoft bought Affirmed and Metaswitch and all of the leading IaaS players hired a number of telecom/network industry veterans. So far, there is limited evidence as to any significant impact of these deals, especially with regards to new revenues.

RELATED: Google Cloud, AWS and Azure want to ‘friend’ telcos, but not every telco is ready to click ‘accept’

During 2021, the partnership will continue to expand with large carriers making deals with two or more cloud providers. However, the complexity of these partnerships between very large companies with diverse business goals will limit their impact.  Each type of organization (both carrier and cloud) will remain very focused on their revenue generation and competitive position.   We will see some limited trials of carrier network workloads running on IaaS platforms in 2021.

Lee Doyle is Principal Analyst at Doyle Research, providing client focused targeted analysis on the Evolution of Intelligent Networks.  He has over 25 years’ experience analyzing the IT, network, and telecom markets.  Lee has written extensively on such topics as SDN, NFV, enterprise adoption of networking technologies, and IT-Telecom convergence. Before founding Doyle Research, Lee was Group VP for Network, Telecom, and Security research at IDC.  Lee holds a B.A. in Economics from Williams College. He can be reached at [email protected] and follow him @leedoyle_dc

Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by Fierce staff. They do not represent the opinions of Fierce.